THE BIRD CATCHER – BEHIND THE SCENES

It was touch and go some 30+ years ago, when at art college, should I work in the film industry, or, should I work on still photography I thought?

I was a huge film buff, still am. I consume movies at an alarming rate, especially when in travel. There have been times over the past three decades when I wondered had I made the right decision?

Deep down, I knew I had, especially when I managed to merge my love for sport with photography and writing.

It was running and working on races that introduced me to Leon Clarance, a successful film producer. We hit it off and I was fortunate to photograph Leon at races such as Marathon des Sables and Everest Trail Race. We often discussed film and he knew I was a film fan.

A conversation over a beer one day and I told Leon, that one day, I’d love to shoot a film. It was a casual throw away conversation as we discussed each other’s work.

Well, Ross Clarke, the director of The Bird Catcher, produced by Ross, Leon and Lisa G Black, noticed one of my images of Leon from a race. He liked the look and style of the imagery and this opened the door to work on The Bird Catcher.

Leon Clarance on set in Norway.

The Bird Catcher is a truly amazing story with a stunning cast:

Sarah-Sofie Boussnina, August Diehl, Laura Birn, Arthur Hakalahti, Jakob Cedergren and Johannes Bah Kuhnke amongst others.

Sarah-Sofie Boussnina – A rising star who gained recognition for ‘The Bridge’ TV series and Knightfall, Black Lake and recently Mary Magdalene.

August Diehl on set in Norway. August is primarily known for playing Dieter Hellstrom in Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds.’

Directed by Ross Clarke (Skid Row, Heroes & Demons, Dermaphoria) the movie tells the story of a young woman (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) in Norway who flees the Nazi roundup and conceals her identity whilst working on an occupied farm.

Inspired by harrowing true events. This gripping new thriller uncovers a hidden slice of World War II history that is as shocking as it is inspiring. Norway, 1942. During her attempt to flee Nazi persecution, 14-year-old Jewish girl Esther finds herself alone and forced to conceal her identity on a Nazi sympathiser farm. Forced to make a series of choices, her actions shift the paths of those around her. From collaboration to resistance, the population’s reaction to their Nazi conquerors was not always clear-cut.

Director – Ross Clarke

Jon Christian Rosenlund was the DOP (Director of Photography) who has worked on movies such as, The Wave, Thousand Times Good Night, The Kings Choice and so many more! He is a true master of his craft and to see him in action with a dedicated crew was a pleasure. He has a wonderful vision and his lighting approach – stunning.

Director of Photography – Jon Christian Rosenlund – On set at The Farm in Norway.

MY ROLE

I was commissioned for two shoots, both on location in Norway, at different time points so as to capture still imagery that would best illustrate the story.

In principal, I had two briefs:

1. Capture still imagery of the movie – the scenes, the actors, the locations and help tell a visual story.

2. Capture behind the scene moments that tell the story of how a film is made.

A TYPICAL DAY

Movies are long, arduous and harsh. Especially when working in Norway with sub zero temperatures, snow and ice. Film sets are very controlled and costly. Therefore, everyone has a role and each day is planned to precision and a storyboard rules the day with a set of objectives.

Lighting, camera angles and planning is done in advance of the movie so that that film crew can work ahead of the DOP and have scenes ready for ‘action’ asap.

Actors, make-up, wardrobe, props and so on, equally are all planned in minute detail.

Controlling the running of everything are the producers and director. The director controls the film’s content and creative style and the producers make sure the film is on time and on budget – I simplify the roles. Both producer and director work well in advance of any film with script, writing, planning, financing and so on. Post the film process, attention then turns to editing and releasing the film.

Jon Are Uhnger

Jon Are Uhnger (1st AD) each morning would assemble all crew and brief them with a ‘UNIT CALL’ of the day’s schedule.

This is ‘The Bible’ for each day and specifies everything that is needed for the day – for example Day 30 below:

Starts with a 13:30 call and a 22:45 finish.

It specifies shooting scenes, allowed time, set description, required people, what actors and so on. It needs to be managed down to the minute and there is a constant level of pressure for all involved.

WORKING ON A MOVIE

I was told that the lowest of the low on a film set is the stills shooter. So, I was a little nervous being a rookie on a film set. However, Leon reassured me that Ross and Jon were cool guys.

And they were. A complete and utter pleasure to work with.

Noise, distraction, being in the wrong place at the wrong time are all things, amongst others, that will make you very unpopular on a film. It’s very much a case of don’t be seen and don’t be heard.

Usually, a stills photographer will move in after a scene has been successfully filmed and capture stills by re-creating key moments. The main reason for this is complicated but in summary:

1. Cameras make a noise when you take a photo.

2. You can be a distraction if moving whilst filming.

Gladly I had recently converted from using Canon cameras to Sony. The Sony cameras are mirrorless and key for the film industry, have a ‘silent’ mode. This proved to be crucial and in advance of the movie, I had already expanded and planned my equipment with the intention of shooting whilst they filmed. This was in someway, looking back, a risky decision. However, I was committed that shooting ‘live’ would give me the best imagery.

Day 1 I was really nervous as we went straight into a very intense scene with German soldiers, Sarah-Sofie Boussnina pulling a sledge and the arrival of a motorbike. I treated it, looking back, like a race. I planned my angles, shot live and caught the action as it happened. I was in my element. Buzzing would be an underestimation.

Post the filming, I moved in for a couple of close-ups while the crew re-set for the next scene and I then captured images of the crew working and setting up.

This process was repeated throughout the day as we all worked to the day’s schedule. At all times I was conscious of the films camera angle, the lens focal length, the story, the emotion and looking to capture what would be the essence of the film.

I can honestly say, I have been very fortunate to work on amazing photography projects in my career, and now, looking back, The Bird Catcher is without doubt one of the highlights. It was challenging, stressful, rewarding, eye opening and just the most remarkable journey.

At the end of day 1, I was editing photos. I had that buzz of excitement knowing I had captured some really strong imagery that really reflected what I had seen being filmed. Ross and Jon looked over my shoulder and then asked to look… I am sure I stopped breathing for a short while. Were they not happy?

I opened the images and scrolled through, one-by-one!

‘When did you take these images?’ Jon enquired.

’I shot most of them while you were filming,’ I replied.

’Not possible,’ he said. ‘You can’t shoot when we are… But these images are stunning!’

I could have fainted. I explained about my camera, shooting silent and wanting to capture in ‘real’ time.

Jon replied, ‘I want to see that camera…’

From that moment on, I was respected on set. Given the space I needed and allowed to shoot with relative autonomy. Once or twice I pushed the boundaries, trying to get the best shot and I was warned accordingly. But the results were the secret, Jon, Ross and the team could see the difference.

Over the shooting days we had multiple locations, challenging scenes, different light and the whole process was a whirlwind of adrenaline. I may have been working, but it felt like I was in a movie living out a dream.

There was an intensity on set. The story of The Bird Catcher is one that should be told and some scenes, quite literally had the crew in tears. Each scene, I thought to myself, I cannot wait to see this movie. At the end of each day we would see dailies, but they are just jigsaw pieces.

It has been over 2 years since working in Norway and the content I produced could not be shown… The Bird Catcher finally has a UK release on October 4th and now I can tell my story.

I urge you to see this movie!

Cinema is a wonderful medium. Working behind the scenes has not burst the bubble or shattered my illusions, on the contrary, it has enhanced my experience.

I made new friends in Norway and I witnessed a film crew working as one to tell the story of The Bird Catcher, because, the story needs to be told!

Sarah-Sofie Boussnina and Arthur Hakalahti are without doubt, the stars and they have already gained worldwide recognition for their skills as actors, The Bird Catcher will only enhance that.

Ross, Leon and Lisa have produced something very special and Jon has given it all a wonderful sumptuous and at times harrowing look. It’s a piece of art.

I hate to single out people as a film is all about everyone coming together and working to one objective, the initial reviews confirm that they all did a great job.

The backdrop produces stunning winter images of coastal Norway near the Swedish border. The snow-frosted forests and idyllic countryside provide a nice juxtaposition to the suspense and fear the characters experience. The audience provided several audible gasps through every twist and turn in the plot. – Edhat.com

‘What it Takes’ to Get the Shot

I was recently approached by LIFE OUTSIDE to provide a little insight into what it takes to, ‘Get the Shot!’

To be honest, it something that cannot be answered in just a few words.

It would be impossible to introduce Ian Corless, and describe his passion for photography, and involvement with ultra running better than Killian Jornet’s words in Corless’ recent book Running Beyond

However, HERE is the article. I hope you find it of interest.

I recently also wrote an article on shooting in Morocco, HERE.

For those who may be looking to travel. I am speaking in October at TRF – Trail Running Festival HERE (in Poland) – Be great to have you come and say hello!

I will also be signing copies of RUNNING BEYOND book.

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Morocco 2018 – Street Photography

For the first time in a long, long time. I had a holiday! Those who follow what I do would arguably say, that I am always on holiday as I am constantly travelling to photograph running races all over the world. However, I can honestly say that in the last six years, I have not been away without working. Admittedly, on one or two trips, work has maybe only been 20-30% of the actual trip. It’s still a holiday but the work element is there.

This August I booked a trip to Morocco, I put my email on auto-reply, I downloaded a couple of books on my Kindle app and I went way with the pure intention to do no work for a good 14-days. 

As a photographer, you may be thinking or asking, but did you take a camera?

The answer is quite simply, yes!

When you do what I do in, day-in and day-out, it’s almost impossible to travel without a camera. I often consider a camera just an ‘essential’ item for what I do every day, be that a holiday or not.

The key thing with taking a camera on holiday is that I can take images for the pleasure of it. No brief, no deadlines, no clients – I can shoot what I want and when I want.

I started to post 10-12 B&W images a day whilst travelling, normally on my Instagram and on Facebook. What was interesting was the amount of feedback and direct messages I received. I guess most people know me as a sports/ running photographer, so, suddenly a series of gritty B&W street photographs appear, and it makes people curios.

So, I decided to write a brief post to answer the questions that was asked. 

Street and people photography are something that I love. It’s raw, visceral, gritty and when done well should transport the viewer to the place and immerse them.

Travelling, one accepts everything; indignation stays at home. One looks, one listens, one is roused by enthusiasm by the most dreadful things…– Elias Canetti

Now there are many forms of street photography. And just to draw a comparison, I photographed in Nepal for many years, the street shots I have done there are very different to what I did in Morocco.

To clarify, I could photograph in Nepal the way I photographed in Morocco but not vice versa. The reason being, the people and the culture. The Nepali people love having their photographs taken, you can walk up to them, stick a camera in their face and take a shot. You can even ask them to move or look into a certain place. So, although it’s real, there can be an ‘element’ of set-up, however, I rarely go down that route.

In Morocco, the people are very different. They do not like having their photograph taken. Don’t agree with me? Take a camera in to the Souk in Marrakech and start pointing your camera at people – you will soon realise that it is not an option. Now of course, there are exceptions. Occasionally it is possible to do a ‘posed’ shot and I have found that my experience with 30-year’s in the business lets me know when that is an option.

Below, there are over 300-images captured in Marrakech and the coastal resort of Essaouira, I would say that approximately 10-12 images were taken with the subject knowing I was taking the photo and they didn’t mind.

The remainder of the images were taken with the subject not knowing that I was taking photographs.

THE EQUIPMEMT

Sony A7RIII with Sony/Zeiss T Sonnar* 35mm F2.8

If you look like a photographer, you will stick out and the people will already be wary of you. For street work and when travelling this way, I carry one camera and one lens.

I use a Sony A7RIII (approx £3200) which is a full-frame digital camera which produces a whopping image size of 42.4MP, when shooting in RAW, that file is over 80MP. I have found a large file allows me options to crop in to the image and still retain a high quality/ high resolution file. The camera is mirrorless and therefore considerably smaller than a DSLR, it also has Image Stabilization built into the body; super handy in low-light. The camera can also shoot at 10fps, at times, this can be super important for capturing that all-important moment.

I use a prime lens, the 35mm F2.8 – The Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 which is a Sony/ Zeiss lens. The optics are incredible, focus is fast and superb and F2.8 it is pin-sharp. There are several reasons why this lens is perfect for street work:

At 35mm, it is wide, but no so wide that you can’t take portraits. I would say that for most Pro photographers, a 35mm prime has replaced the traditional 50mm prime.

The lens has a lens hood which is flush to the front element keeping the lens neat.

Its size is extremely small.

Quality is off the scale, but it is not cheap, approx £850.

That is, it. I don’t use anything else. I don’t carry a camera bag and I have no accessories. The only two additional items I carry is a spare battery and spare SD cards.

SHOOTING

This camera set up is also my favourite set up when running and photographing. The main reason being is that the camera and lens are light, the quality is the best you can get, and I can carry the camera in my hand while running. I broke up my time in Marrakech and Essaouira with a 2-day trip to climb Toubkal, the highest mountain in the Atlas range. Here are some of the shots from that trip:

Back to the streets…

I have learnt over time to view the scene with a 35mm eye. Basically, I can look at a scene/ scenario and view the scene with the viewpoint and angle of the camera. This is essential in Morocco.

Many of the shots I took, I would say 80% (with the exception of the Toubkal shots) were taken with me NOT looking into the camera. The moment you raise your camera to your eye, people stop, look, put their hands up and on many occasions will say, ‘no photo, no photo!’

The below is a classic example of the subject posing for the shot.

This shot I was looking through the camera, but the subject didn’t know I was taking the photo.

This shot I was looking through the camera.

This shot was composed and planned but the subject didn’t know.

This is why Nepal and Morocco are so different.

To shoot, I would survey a scene, view the angles and decide on the shot and then walk past with my camera at mid-chest height. With experience, I understand the field of view the camera sees and I capture the scene.

Now of course, this sounds easy.

It’s not.

  1. One has to consider focus and how one gets the ‘key’ element in the frame in focus.
  2. One also has to consider exposure.
  3. One has to consider if it is possible to make one or two attempts at a shot.

The above is actually what brings adrenaline into shooting in this way. One also has to accept that you will have a high failure rate, certainly early on. Failure rate becomes less with more experience.

SUMMARY

There are no hard rules in capturing images when working a scene. The place, the people and the location will often decide what approach you need to take. The comparisons between Nepal and Morocco provide a perfect example.

The key is to enjoy the process, have fun and learn by taking many, many shots.

All images ©iancorless.com

Follow on:

Instagram – @iancorlessphotography

Twitter – @talkultra

facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

Web – www.iancorless.com

Web – www.iancorlessphotography.com

Image sales –www.iancorless.photoshelter.com

Shooting in the Sky

I recently wrote an article about why I switched from using Canon to Sony (here). Writing about equipment can be a little boring, after all it is just a tool that I use to do my job. However, it was my switch to Sony that prompted me to write as I felt I had finally had something to write about.

On the back of this, I was approached by Sony to write an article.

“It’s a fast course and one that compromises a photographer’s ability to not only make several points during the race, but also to reach those points. A highlight of the race coming at 3000m. I’m lucky, today I have a helicopter and it departs at 0715 – the race start coming at 0800.”

 

“My bag is packed and I’m soon on the road. I meet the mountain rescue team and before we know it, the helicopter is hovering at the summit as the team and I climb out.”

 

If you are interested, it’s called SHOOTING IN THE SKY and you can read the full post HERE.